Roadways in India

Roadways in India
Posted on 23-08-2023

The history of roads in India spans over 5000 years. While initial attempts at road construction were made by historical figures such as Ashoka and Chandragupta, significant advancements were achieved during the Mughal Period.

The roadways in India serve as the crucial thread that weaves together the diverse topographical landscapes of the country. This extensive network of roads has significantly contributed to India's economic growth by facilitating efficient infrastructure. With its unifying role, Indian roads foster national integration, effortlessly connecting people from all corners of the nation.

India boasts a comprehensive road transport system that encompasses a wide range of road types, including small local paths, ring roads, flyovers, highways, expressways, and freeways. This robust road network has emerged as a fundamental infrastructure pillar, providing essential support to the Indian economy.

Especially in remote areas, the Indian road network plays a pivotal role in regional development by linking these regions with nearby urban centers, thereby granting easier access to modern amenities. This accessibility has bolstered productivity in various regions and has contributed to the country's competitive standing on the global economic stage.

The road transport sector in India, comprising roadways buses, express services, and both public and commercial transportation systems, accounts for a significant portion of freight (60%) and passenger (80%) transportation. Notably, special buses equipped with automated speed enforcement systems are gaining traction and garnering attention from state governments due to the escalating number of road accidents attributed to excessive speeds.

Numerous websites offer Indian road maps, allowing travelers to determine precise distances and even access road distance calculators. State governments oversee road transportation within their respective jurisdictions, except for national highways, which fall under the purview of the Central Government and are managed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).

The roadways map of India classifies roads into five categories:

  1. National Highways

  2. State Highways

  3. Major District Roads

  4. Other District Roads

  5. Village Roads

While national highways constitute a mere 2% of India's road infrastructure, they shoulder more than 40% of the country's freight traffic. The country boasts 259 national highways covering over 52,000 kilometers, traversing all states and connecting major cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Kolkata, Hyderabad, and more, with remote cities such as Kullu, Shimla, Lucknow, Ranchi, and many others.

The Evolution, Importance, and Challenges of India's Road Network

The earliest traces of road development in India can be traced back to around 2800 BCE in Harappa and Mohenjodaro of the Harappan Civilization. Over the centuries, roads have played a pivotal role in India's history, from the Mauryan Empire to the British Empire. Modern road infrastructure development in India began under British rule, and since then, roads have been crucial for economic growth, social development, and poverty alleviation.

Historical Development:

The Grand Trunk Road, initially built during the Mauryan Empire, underwent reconstruction by various ruling powers, including the Sur Empire, Mughal Empire, and British Empire. The 1830s marked the British East India Company's initiation of metalled road construction for commercial and administrative purposes. The establishment of the Indian Road Congress in 1934 and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) in 1988 further streamlined road development.

Key Road Development Projects:

In 1998, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee launched the National Highways Development Project (NHDP) to enhance road infrastructure. Notably, the North-South and East-West Corridor project aimed to establish a four to six-lane highway network. The Bharatmala project, launched in 2017, aimed to construct 83,677 km of new highways across India.

Importance of Roads:

Roads are vital for both movement and economic development. They provide access to employment, healthcare, education, and social services, contributing to poverty reduction. Efficient transport systems expand markets, facilitate resource movement, and drive demand for vehicles.

Classification of Roads Based on Structure:

Roads are categorized as metalled (pucca) or unmetalled (kutcha). Metalled roads are made of materials like metal, cement, or concrete, offering durability and longer lifespans. Unmetalled roads, often composed of earth, gravel, or sand, are less durable and unsuitable during rainfall.

Classification of Roads Based on Capacity:

India classifies roads based on capacity, including:

  1. Expressways: High-speed, controlled-access roads with tolls and four or more lanes.

  2. National Highways: High-quality highways connecting major cities, managed by NHAI and NHIDCL.

  3. State Highways: Connecting cities within a state and neighboring states, managed by state governments.

  4. District Roads: Managed by Zila Parishads, they span around 632,154 km.

  5. Rural Roads: Making up 72.97% of India's roads, these are developed under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.

  6. Border Roads: Constructed and maintained by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) for national security along borders.

Challenges Faced by Indian Roadways:

Despite their significance, Indian roadways encounter challenges, including traffic congestion, poor road conditions during the monsoon, narrow urban roads, and inadequate coordination between states. Lack of capacity, substandard infrastructure, congested urban roads, and safety concerns are also notable drawbacks.


From ancient civilizations to modern times, India's road network has evolved significantly, contributing to economic development and societal well-being. With ongoing projects and initiatives, addressing challenges can lead to a more efficient, safer, and well-connected road infrastructure across the country.

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